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Arts and crafts

  • 27th Mar, 2006 at 2:17 PM

I have been thinking about art.

It started when I moved into this neighbourhood. Plateau Mont-Royal used to be a haven for starving artists. The rents were low, you could walk to what you needed, and the streets were vibrant. Unfortunately, they made the neighbourhood so awesome that rich yuppies wanted to live there. Instead of creating art themselves, these young professionals do Real Work, and can therefore afford to pay the rent. Rents go up, artists move out, and the neighbourhood becomes dull and dreary.

This, my friends, is gentrification in a nutshell.

I pondered about what I could do to slow this down, and realised that my only choice was to become a patron of the arts. I've started commissioning things from people in the neighbourhood. I'm not ridiculously rich, but I manage to pay for a couple things, here and there.

This has brought me closer to artists. I've never been really artistic, I myself am a technical person. But Artists are not so much different than us Craftsmen. We both pursue Quality. We just go about it differently.

Artists make things for the sake of art. There's a creative process where you doodle or jam or play around until some pleasing pattern emerges. Then you chase that pattern, that thread, until you're taken to a place you want to be. You're pursuing beauty! And it may take you years and years before you churn out your first masterpiece, but when you do, you know it. It will be beautiful, with an emergent form and structure.

Craftsmen make things for the sake of function. When you design something, there are rules and forms that must be obeyed. You search for something that fits your needs within the constraints that you have. You build a prototype and then you tweak and twiddling. You shave off the unnecessary thunks, the gratuitious waste. And it may take you years and years before you know what needs to be there and what's superfluous. But when you've got the right design, you know it. It will be elegant, with an emergent grace and beauty.

So why is there all this terrible stuff surrounding us? If artists don't create it and craftsmen don't build it, why are we buried in mediocrity? It's because we've got to eat, and since people don't pay for high Quality things, we become manufacturers. People churn out dull landscape paintings of boats, or lousy software, or mindless pop music.

Mediocrity means that more people are willing to pay for it, because fewer people are offended by it. Even though it isn't as good.

Sad, isn't it?


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
27th Mar, 2006 20:14 (UTC)
Now that barely anyone practises a craft, Arts and Crafts really ought to declare a truce and work together. There's little beauty enough in the world that we have to squabble over who made it.
28th Mar, 2006 01:39 (UTC)
Say hello to Andy Warhol, too.

And if Einstürzende Neubauten use this, are they still artists? It has a most lovely sound, I find, very beautiful...
27th Mar, 2006 19:58 (UTC)
some is more than none...
Even if there are only some of us that appreciate beauty and quality, whether we choose to call it an art or a craft, or if we don't care to use silly labels, that is still better than if there was no-one. No matter how many people in this world would rather spend their hard-earned money on mass-produced crap, there will always be at least a few of us that respect uniqueness and beauty. Like you, or like me, whether we create it ourselves, or support and value the work that others do.

And besides all this, the world would still be a beautiful place, even if none of us ever opened our eyes to see it.
28th Mar, 2006 04:27 (UTC)
Re: some is more than none...
All that beauty is sadly wasted, if nobody gets to appreciate it.

And having more people making more ugliness in the world really doesn't help matters.
27th Mar, 2006 19:58 (UTC)
got to eat indeed.
Still, I don't see that as an excuse for not pouring yourself into everything you do. Even if I make 30 pieces close to the same, I put something different into each one.
27th Mar, 2006 20:41 (UTC)
Most manufacturing doesn't give you the flexibility to make things unique. Standardisation does have some benefits, after all.
27th Mar, 2006 19:59 (UTC)
I'm in a reflective mood today, so y'all are going to have to put up with my mindspew. As an amateur epistemologist I've thought about what makes something 'art' more than I should have.

Years ago had you asked me, I would have described art as an interpretive form of communication between the artist and the audience by use of symbols. The artist attempts to communicate an emptional response through the use of sounds or images. Today I recognize this for the bullshit it is, a thinly veiled rationalisation of the worst abuses of modern art.

You're pursuing beauty!

This is, I think, the barest truth. Art is about aesthetics, creating something which is, for whatever reason, pleasing to the human senses. It's almost a masterbatory exercise. Only humans create artworks, because only humans have the intellectual capacity to be dissatisfied with life. It is 'food for the soul' indeed.

A craftsman creates something which we use for physical ends. An artist creates something we use to keep ourselves sane in an often miserable world.
27th Mar, 2006 20:02 (UTC)
"A craftsman creates something which we use for physical ends. An artist creates something we use to keep ourselves sane in an often miserable world"

that works for me :)
27th Mar, 2006 20:17 (UTC)
Well, consider how many craftsmen there are these days. Since so many things are mass-produced, people don't buy crafted things for mere physical ends anymore. There's a pleasure in having something that was produced just for you.
28th Mar, 2006 19:08 (UTC)
There's a lot of craft in every "art" and a lot of art in every "craft".

Craft is persuing the technical details, teaching your hands the skill to do what you want, learning how this material works... Art is putting that knowledge together to make something beautiful. A painter who hasn't spent enough time painting and learning the skills of drawing and color mixing and how *this* particular combination of paint and canvas or paper work together is not much of an artist. That doesn't mean every painter has to do realistic work, or be excellent at drawing sketches, but they have to know *how* to do tricky things like that or they can't fully realize the images in their heads.

Gotta have both, even if you're doing something as ordinary as knitting a sweater.
27th Mar, 2006 20:24 (UTC)
want to commission me to write a play?
or a piece on the piano?

28th Mar, 2006 04:23 (UTC)
Hmm. How much do you charge for plays? And would you get it performed somewhere?

I'm afraid I don't have a cast already assembled to publically perform one myself.
28th Mar, 2006 08:12 (UTC)
it depends if you want a play I could perform bymyself,or if you wanted it a full cast. :)
(Deleted comment)
27th Mar, 2006 20:28 (UTC)
Wanna share the name of it? I'm a local artist/craftsperson.
(Deleted comment)
28th Mar, 2006 01:43 (UTC)
Thank you! I'm always nervous about going to these places but I'm also assembling a list for local artists.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - blacksquiggles - 28th Mar, 2006 17:57 (UTC) - Expand
27th Mar, 2006 21:10 (UTC)
> Mediocrity means that more people are willing to pay for it, because fewer people are offended by it. Even though it isn't as good.

In many instances, mediocrity is also faster to produce, which means that, as long as it's good enough to satisfy the need, mediocrity wins. This seems to be an unintended consequence of competition and the market economy.

I heard recently from one of our suppliers that they are now the biggest supplier of a certain component in the world. As you might have guessed, the thing is a monolithic mess of 70,000 lines of spaghetti, but because they were basically the first to come up with it, they win.

(In the end, guess who has to maintain it? ;-) But that's another story to itself...)
28th Mar, 2006 04:22 (UTC)
Oh no! Poor you.

First-to-market doesn't always mean first to success. Many times, it's second-to-market that wins. Those guys had the advantage of hindsight.
28th Mar, 2006 16:40 (UTC)
Eh? In this case they were the first to market and they won, but you are right that sometimes it's the second-to-market who wins.

Actually, I fully understand the business issues involved. If I were in the position to make the business decision to purchase the component, I would have made the same decision.

(Avoiding being in that position in the first place, on the other hand, is another issue entirely. ;-) )

In this case, the needs/wants of the engineer really does not correspond to the needs/wants of the business. As an engineer, I don't want to maintain that steaming pile of spaghetti. But, from a purely economic/business upper management viewpoint, it makes sense to force that job on the engineer. I often wonder whether it is actually possible to always make business decisions that are acceptable to your workers?

I'm afraid I have segued too far from the subject of your post, however, so I'll stop here. :-)
27th Mar, 2006 22:02 (UTC)
Whoah, did you just read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? :)
27th Mar, 2006 22:10 (UTC)
No man, I did that years ago.
(Deleted comment)
28th Mar, 2006 04:19 (UTC)
Damn. This is the problem with being forgetful. You keep on discovering good ideas someone else has already told you!
27th Mar, 2006 22:29 (UTC)
I've always wanted to do that Patron-of-the-Arts thing, but I've never gotten my act together enough. Way to go!
28th Mar, 2006 04:21 (UTC)
Re: Bravo!
It's not too difficult. Here is my plan:

  1. Meet artists. They're easy to identify, because they're passionate about something.
  2. Look at their work. If you don't like it, go back to step 1.
  3. Ask them to make you something for money.
  4. Profit.

  5. In theory, it's a win-win proposition.
29th Mar, 2006 13:43 (UTC)
Thinking of local artist, I discovered a cute little bookstore on villeneuve between St. Denis and St. Laurent, a strange mix of religion, philosophy and sex manuals.
30th Mar, 2006 15:01 (UTC)
man, very well written!
6th Apr, 2006 06:16 (UTC)
That's very true, and very sad...
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )